9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN33 Women's and Gender Studies

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 History and Feminist Theory Building II, C4.01

Interrogating the Epistemic Status of Gender Research in European Sociology

In many European countries, sociological research on gender has increased and intensified in recent decades and become an integral part of current training and debates in Sociology. Several authors have commented on these processes and their work has made crucial contributions to our understanding of the factors and agents which shape the emergence, expansion and sometimes decline of gender as an object of teaching, research and publication in Sociology. However, most of these studies do not problematise in detail the epistemic status of gender research, i.e. the degree to which work on gender is recognised as a valid, relevant, credible and authoritative field in sociological academic communities.
In this paper I draw on my own empirical work and a broad literature review to argue that diverse competing discourses about the epistemic status of gender research are often mobilised in those academic communities. I claim that this has concrete effects on the conditions and possibilities for researching, teaching and studying gender issues, and the degree to which, and terms on which, work on gender is disseminated and engaged with in wider Sociology communities. I argue that if (as feminist epistemologists have shown) it is in large part due to its association with specific markers of epistemic value that the authority of academic practice is produced and legitimated, then the ways in which gender research is positioned in relation to those markers in concrete institutional and national contexts must be closely examined.